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Fort Pillow, about forty miles above Memphis, on the Mississippi River, was garrisoned by five or six hundred soldiers, nearly half of whom were colored (artillerymen of the regular army), under Major Booth, and the others white, under Major Bradford, of the volunteer cavalry. On the 12th of April, Forrest's cavalry swept down upon the fort before sunrise, but was bravely resisted from the outer line of intrenchments until 9 o'clock, when Major Booth was killed. Then Major Bradford withdrew his men into the works on the bluff, where he was assisted by a gunboat, which gave the enemy a raking fire whenever exposed through one of the ravines on either side of the fort. The conflict went on until after noon, when the enemy, temporarily relieved from the fire of the gunboat, and after a second refusal of Bradford to surrender, made a furious and successful assault. Bradford was killed, and his surviving men fled in haste, seeking shelter in the timber at the foot of the bluff and even in the river. They were closely pursued, and a large share of them mercilessly slaughtered. Forrest reported his own losses as twenty killed and sixty wounded, and stated that he buried two hundred and twenty-eight “Federals” that evening, and a number more the next day.
The voluminous testimony in the case, as taken by a Congressional joint committee, contains horrible details of the slaughter, showing a specially ferocious spirit towards the blacks. The President had promptly brought the matter to the attention of the Richmond authorities, who ordered Forrest's immediate superior, General S. D. Lee, to inquire and report thereon. As a result, it was declared that (contrary to what had been rumored) “the garrison never surrendered, but retreated under cover of a gunboat, with arms in their hands and constantly using them.” It was further maintained that the Confederate officers," with all the circumstances against them, endeavored to prevent the effusion of blood," and that black as well as white prisoners were taken and still held. In brief, then, it appeared that the case did not call for extreme methods of “retribution." Whatever the effect of the President's action, it was made clear that he intended to exact fair play to all his soldiers alike; and it is a fact that no such incident as this at Fort Pillow again occurred.
The woes of Andersonville or other prisons will not be recounted here; but the interruption of a regular system of exchanges, which led to large accumulations of prisoners on both sides, needs a brief notice in this connection.
The President early appointed two commissioners to visit and care for Union prisoners at Richmond, but they were stopped at Norfolk, an intimation being given that an exchange of prisoners would be agreeable to the authorities there; and a negotiation followed between Generals Wool and Howell Cobb, resulting in a cartel dated February 14, 1862. The contention about captured privateersmen (who had been arrested as “ pirates ” — the President ultimately yielding, to avert retaliation) caused a suspension of exchanges from March ist until the 22d of July, when a new agreement was made on the basis of the cartel of the War of 1812. Most of the officers of higher rank having been exchanged under this compact, it was
soon after abruptly suspended. About the middle of August, General Lee wrote to General Halleck, calling him to account for Butler's hanging of Mumford at New Orleans in the preceding May, and for military executions by other Union officers (as specified) “within the Confederacy,” and inquiring as to the truth of the allegation that in South Carolina Hunter had “armed slaves for the murder of their masters," as Phelps was said to have done at New Orleans. Halleck replied: “As these papers are couched in language insulting to the Government of the United States, I most respectfully decline to receive them.” On the 21st of August, Davis issued a proclamation of outlawry against Phelps and Hunter. Four months later, Butler was in like manner “outlawed,” and it was ordered that, if captured, the commanding officer should “cause him to be immediately executed by hanging”; that officers serving under him should be," whenever captured, reserved for execution”; and that “all negro slaves captured in arms be at once delivered over to the executive authorities of the respective States to which they belong, to be dealt with according to the laws of said States." A like course was to be taken with officers “found serving in company with said slaves in insurrection."
So matters remained until Meade had met Lee at Gettysburg, and the Confederate garrisons at Vicksburg and Port Hudson were at the last extremity. Then, with credentials dated July 2, 1863, Alexander H. Stephens started from Richmond “to seek an adjustment of the exchange question at Washington. He was stopped at the Union outposts, and reminded that " the customary agents and channels were entirely
adequate for the purpose avowed. He had, in fact, as he himself disclosed after the war, another design, for which the alleged one was only a mask, namely, to propose negotiations for peace, with the ultimate object of strengthening the Opposition party of the North. Exchanges were still suspended for more than a year after.
Grant in Virginia - Sherman in Georgia - Confederate
Cruisers — Anxious Days in June.
“Not expecting to see you before the spring campaign opens,” the President wrote to Grant on the 30th of April, “ I wish to express in this way my entire satisfaction with what you have done up to this time, so far as I understand it. The particulars of your plans I neither know nor seek to know. You are vigilant and self-reliant, and, pleased with this, I wish not to obtrude any restraints or constraints upon you. While I am very anxious that any great disaster, or capture of our men in great numbers, shall be avoided, I know that these points are less likely to escape your attention than they would mine. If there be anything wanting which is within my power to give, do not fail to let me know it. And now, with a brave army and a just cause, may God sustain you!”
To which the General replied (May ist):
The confidence you express for the future and the satisfaction for the past in my military administration is acknowledged with pride. It shall be my earnest endeavor that you and the country shall not be disappointed. From my first entrance into the volunteer service of the country to the present day, I have never had cause of complaint, have never expressed or implied a complaint, against the Administration